We were invited to a “soft opening” of a new restaurant location for one of the chains. Our nephew got a job there and he had invited his parents for the “friends and family” offer of free dinners, and they invited us to join them, as they figured that I might be able to offer some suggestions about his wine service techniques. We had to drive for almost an hour to get to the location and his parents only live about three miles away; naturally we got there first. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I am not partial to this chain, but my Bride doesn’t mind them and she is much more allowing compared to me. She thought that our nephew needed a curmudgeon to keep him on his toes. While we were waiting for his parents to arrive, I was amazed at the number of people that were trying to get into the restaurant that evening, since they obviously didn’t pay attention to the signs posted that there were not open yet for the public. Add to that, that the staff that was guarding the front doors were all masked, as restaurants here are still only partially open, so I give the company kudos for opening a brand-new building in this environment. The greeters or guards also told us the rules, before we went in, that all of the dishes that we ordered were complimentary as well as soft drinks. If we wanted alcoholic beverages, we would have to pay for that, but all the proceeds of the hard drinks were being donated to a local charity. So, we put on our masks to be led to our table, so that we could take the masks off after we were seated.
We were actually kind of goaded to order appetizers, under the guise that the kitchen needed to experience in the trench battlefield operations. We ended up with the four of us, splitting an order of Toasted Ravioli and an order of Classic Shrimp Scampi Fritta. Then out came salads or soups and bread. I was appalled when I heard that there were groups that were taking advantage of the “friends and family” and were ordering two entrée orders per person, I guess when it is free, some people become gluttons. My Bride ordered the Herb-Grilled Salmon and I went with the Shrimp Scampi. We were told to order desserts and we had those boxed up, as we were going to the other couple’s home afterwards and desserts would not go bad there. The food was much better than I had anticipated, and that is important; and a fun evening.
This was the same young man that I had given a lesson of using a Waiter’s Cork Screw on a Zoom session and he was still nervous. Though he did come by as our waiter and offer us a glass of complimentary wine, and it was so good, that we ordered a bottle for the table, but the wine had a screw cap, so we had to order a second bottle and we found a bottle that had a cork, and one of the bartenders was giving him a “hands on” lesson on using the cork screw. Then I gave him a quick lesson in wine service about the cork and finding out who will do the taste of the newly opened wine; with a screw cap there is way less pomp and circumstance. The wine with the cork was Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2018. Chateau Ste. Michelle is the oldest and one of the most prestigious wineries in the State of Washington. They are known for their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, but are famed for their Riesling. It was founded as the American Wine Growers in 1954 by the merger of two that companies that followed the repeal of Prohibition; the National Wine Company and the Pomerelle Wine Company. The National Wine Company had planted Vitis vinifera grapes in the Columbia Valley, and under the consultation of Andre Tchelistcheff they planted even higher quality grapes in 1967. These were under the name of Ste. Michelle Vintners and the first wines released were Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Semillon and Grenache. In 1974 in a blind tasting their Riesling came in first place over Germany and California. In 1976, they changed the name to Chateau Ste. Michelle. The wine is aged Sur Lie for six months in a mix of French and American Oak, with ten percent new, and then blended with Chardonnay that was aged in tanks, so that there is a blend of crisp and oaky wine combined. This is always a charming bottle of wine and I think it is very food friendly. The wine that had a screw cap, that I was unaware of, and the wine that we were offered a free sample of was Meiomi Pinot Noir California 2018. Later that evening, our nephew mentioned that the wine was the most expensive wine on the carte and he thought we would like it. Meiomi Wines is a California winery that was founded in 2007 by Joe Wagner, the son of Chuck Wagner of Caymus Vineyards. The winery started with Pinot Noir, then a Chardonnay and finally a Rosé. Meiomi means “coast” in the language of the Wappo and Yuki tribes of the region. The Pinot Noir is a blend of three coastal regions; Sonoma County, Monterey County and Santa Barbara County and hence the California AVA. Their first vintage of the Pinot Noir was in 2007 and they produced ninety-thousand cases and quickly became one of the most requested wine labels for restaurants. In 2015, Joe Wagner sold Meiomi Wines to Constellation Brands for $315,000,000, and he stayed on as a consultant for the 2016 and 2017 vintages. This was the first vintage not overseen by Joe Wagner and the wine was a classic California wine that was jammy and velvety with a good nose and nice finish, that even appealed to our in-laws that are not really red wine drinkers. Afterwards we helped our nephew with getting the wine bottles into specially designed self-sealing bags, as Michigan several years back started allowing unfinished bottles of wine to go home with the patrons, just like left overs in “doggy bags.” Though one of the bartenders came by and redid our handiwork, as there was supposed to be a copy of the restaurant receipt in the bag as well, and the bartender realized that the none of the staff, especially the new trainees were taught this, so we helped out again. We tipped our waiter for a job well done, left with all the leftover food and desserts and went to his parent’s house to play some four-handed cribbage.